Thursday, January 27, 2022

(1-27-22) Flames-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Tyler Bozak wasn't sure what the expect when the journey began.

But here is the 35-year-old, 799 NHL regular-season games later about ready to notch another century mark on his career with his 800th game when the Blues (25-12-5) get a rematch against the Calgary Flames (20-12-6) at Enterprise Center today (7 p.m.; BSMW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

Bozak, who is one of three active players in the NHL (Seattle's Mark Giordano and New York Islanders' Andy Greene) to play in 800 games or more as undrafted players, has played 205 games with the Blues since joining them as a free agent in the summer of 2018, winning a Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019. Prior to signing a three-year, $15 million contract with the Blues, Bozak played 594 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in nine seasons.

"Obviously your goal as a hockey player is to play at the highest level possible and that was definitely something I wanted to do, but not being drafted didn't add fuel to the fire, so to speak, or anything like that," Bozak said. "I kept trying to get better and just kept playing and loved it and here we are.

"It was not something that I was really focused on at all or had been talked about. It wasn't on the radar, so I wasn't expecting to get drafted. It wasn't something that was a letdown or anything like that. I was a pretty late bloomer and still kind of coming into my own and figuring out how to play the game. I got lucky to have some good coaches in juniors and then in college and blossomed from there. Definitely proud of being undrafted and carving out a career like I've had where we're at 800 games now. To be able to win throughout that career has been awesome too. I'm definitely proud of what I have accomplished and obviously there's been a ton of people that have helped me along the way."

Bozak, who played college hockey at the University of Denver, has 458 points (170 goals, 288 assists) and continues to carve out a niche even in his later years.

"That's a great accomplishment," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "It's a lot of games to play. We all know what type of player Bozak is. He's done a great job in his career, has been a very good player, a very intelligent player and he's still going. We all like 'Bozie' a lot and what he brings to our team.

"He's intelligent, for one. I think when you're a smart player like him, you can get through things because of your brains, but he still looks good, he still moves good out there. He's in good shape. I don't think physically he's beat up too bad. He's still a young guy. Maybe his age isn't young for  the game, but his head and heart are still young in my opinion and that's why he's still playing in the league."

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The Flames, who distinguished the Blues 7-1 on Monday when the Blues concluded their three-game trip, come in on the heels of a 6-0 thrashing of Columbus on Wednesday, putting up a franchise record 62 shots in the process. They put up 48 on the Blues Monday and 47 in their 5-3 loss at Edmonton last Saturday.

It's certainly something that gets the Blues' attention.

"It's similar to our game in some ways," Berube said of Wednesday's Calgary win. "They came out hard in the first period, really set the tone for the game and how it's going to be played. They just compete hard and they get a lot of pucks to the net from everywhere.

"You've got to have the puck and you've got to do something with it. It's the most important thing is making plays and putting pucks in, understanding what kind of situation you're in and if you have room, have room to skate and make a play that's available. If not, then you've got to put pucks in and you've got to be willing to go get them. That forecheck's going to be huge. We've got to compete for that puck and get it. The more we can have the puck and make them play in their own end, then they're not going to get shots, right? You can't just give the puck back to them and not compete for it. They're going to get it, they transition really well and they go the other way. When they get in the offensive zone, they're strong on it. They don't give it up too easily."

St. Louisan Matthew Tkachuk, who has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in a six-game point streak and Johnny Gaudreau, who has 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in a six-game point streak, are two players the Blues will have to certainly be mindful of.

Tkachuk had a career-best five assists against the Blues Monday and has 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 12 games against the Blues in his career.

Gaudreau had a goal and three assists Monday.

"Time and space is huge and making it hard on them," Berube said. "When you confront them, you've got to be physical and you've got to have good sticks and you've got to eliminate them, but  time and space and numbers will be really important."

Being humbled like the Blues were on Monday certainly is a motivating factor, and they'll need to be ready when the puck drops tonight.

"It's exciting to have another opportunity," Bozak said. "Obviously not the way we wanted that last game to go. Kind of got away from our game. They have a great team, they play hard and they made us pay. It's exciting to get to play them again and hopefully change the outcome of last game and have it go a little more in our favor tonight.

"I think most importantly, we've got to focus on ourselves. I think we need to play the way we do when we're successful and play our game. Obviously they have a lot of talented players over there that we have to be aware of when they're on the ice, take away the time and space and not turn the puck over. I think that's the biggest thing. I think that's a bad habit that's crept into our game a little bit. The really good teams will make you pay when you turn the puck over."

"Obviously we want to beat them this time, but first of all, we want to play way better than we did against them the last time," forward Oskar Sundqvist said. "It's going to be fun to play them again here and get a chance to redeem ourselves."

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* Goalie Ville Husso will start for the fifth time in the past seven games. He came on in relief of Jordan Binnington for the third period Monday and stopped all 13 shots faced. Husso is 5-0-0 with a 1.20 goals-against average and .963 save percentage over his past five starts.

* Forward Jordan Kyrou has 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) the past 10 games.

* Forward Ivan Barbashev has 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) his past 13 games.

* Center Ryan O'Reilly has nine points (four goals, five assists) the past eight games.

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The Blues' projected lineup:

Ivan Barbashev-Ryan O'Reilly-Pavel Buchnevich

Jordan Kyrou-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brandon Saad-Brayden Schenn-David Perron

Klim Kostin-Tyler Bozak-Oskar Sundqvist

Niko Mikkola-Colton Parayko

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella-Robert Bortuzzo

Ville Husso will start in goal; Jordan Binnington will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Logan Brown and Jake Walman. Scott Perunovich (undisclosed) remains day-to-day. 

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The Flames' projected lineup:

Johnny Gaudreau-Elias Lindholm-Matthew Tkachuk

Andrew Mangiapane-Mikael Backlund-Blake Coleman

Milan Lucic-Sean Monahan-Dillon Dube

Trevor Lewis-Adam Ruzicka-Brett Ritchie

Noah Hanifin-Rasmus Andersson

Oliver Kylington-Christopher Tanev

Nikita Zadorov-Erik Gudbranson

Dan Vladar is expected to start in goal; Jacob Markstrom would be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Michael Stone and Brad Richardson. Tyler Pitlick (lower body) is out.

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